No World Series on AFN Radio this year
For the first time in 60 years, the American Forces Network will not provide a radio broadcast of the World Series to U.S. servicemembers and civilians stationed overseas.
Not since the St. Louis Cardinals bested the Boston Red Sox in the 1946 World Series has the Fall Classic been absent from network’s radio lineup.
“People don’t listen to sports on the radio,” said Larry Sichter, an AFN spokesman at the network’s broadcast center in Riverside, Calif. “There is no plan to air the World Series on radio.”
The decision not to air the World Series — which starts Saturday — stems from a policy change, backed by the Pentagon, that was announced in July.
Based on a survey, AFN officials deduced that fewer and fewer people are listening to sports on the radio. To no one’s surprise, respondents indicated they prefer watching sports on TV to listening to it on the radio. The survey’s findings are consistent with industry trends, Sichter said.
When AFN announced it would pull the plug on radio sports, the intention was that such programming would cease. However, Sichter said in response to questions this week that there will be at least one exception.
“We’re planning to get the Super Bowl on the radio,” Sichter said. “That’s what I’m told.”
Another reason given for dumping radio sports is staffing.
Back in July, an AFN news release said its radio division had lost one-third of its staff to cuts. Since it is precluded from airing stateside commercials, at least one person is needed in the studio to pre-empt the radio spots that run between innings of a baseball game or football timeouts.
One of the AFN announcers who filled the air time with scores and sporting updates was the venerable Ken Allan, who has been working for AFN for 40 years.
“For years and years and years, AFN Radio was it,” Allan said in a telephone interview from his Riverside office. “There was no TV.”
AFN Radio came into existence on July 4, 1943. A little more than four years later, the network posted a programming tidbit in the Stars and Stripes: “With weather conditions permitting, AFN will carry a broadcast on the opening of the 1947 World Series between the New York Yankees and the Brooklyn Dodgers directly from Yankee Stadium.”
From that point on, AFN regularly broadcasted the World Series to hundreds of thousands of listeners overseas.
In recent years, however, the number of people tuning to an AFN Radio for sports has decreased, especially with the advent of new technologies, Sichter said.
“Apparently, this is where we are nowadays,” noted Allan, referring to the technological advances.
Allan, who is retiring in January, said it has been an honor for him “to bring sports over the radio” to generations of servicemembers.
“These guys are putting their lives on the line for us,” Allan said. “I take that pretty seriously. There are a lot of people who depend on us.”
One of those is Air Force Staff Sgt. Al Meyer. The 36-year-old airman is assigned to the 723rd Air Mobility Squadron, which operates around the clock loading and unloading cargo aircraft.
Listening to the radio “is the best way to get sports, if you live off base,” said Meyer, who does not own an AFN decoder. “I love listening to sports on the radio.”
Back in the States, Meyer said he sometimes drove his wife “nuts listening to sports.” But, he admits, today’s servicemembers aren’t so wedded to the practice, a point Sichter and other AFN officials make.
“I don’t know too many of the young airmen that would take the time to [listen] to it on the radio,” Meyer said.